Tribute to former Dean of Chichester in full

We print in full the address given by the Rev David Nason at the Chichester Cathedral funeral of the Very Rev John Treadgold

We come together in this beautiful and ancient building this afternoon with many mixed emotions. We come with sorrow because we have gathered to say our farewells to John Treadgold. We come with sympathy for his family and close friends as we mourn, with them, his passing. But also we come with deep gratitude and thanksgiving for the legacy that John leaves behind. Not only as Dean of this cathedral church for twelve years but also through all the previous appointments that he has held and for the part that he has played in each of our lives. John was above all else, a gifted pastor, and many will bear testimony to his unique pastoral care in times of sorrow and bereavement. Together with his wife Hazel, friendship and generous hospitality were great hallmarks of his entire ministry as was his thoughtful preaching and exemplary reading of the scriptures at the daily offices.

John came to the Cathedral in December 1989, just six months after I had been appointed Priest Vicar and Minor Canon. I remember well his installation on the 15th of that month and that some of the music had to be changed at the last minute as many of the choristers had gone down with illness. But the day that he and Hazel moved into the Deanery was also very memorable because their dog, on arrival, had found his way up to Woolworths in North Street and was just setting about eating his second bar of chocolate when he was arrested for shop lifting and returned to the Deanery under escort. Fortunately the matter was hushed up as the dog had come to John and Hazel with not quite a title but the highest pedigree.

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John did not always have an easy time as ‘primus inter pares’. The chapter and the Bishop often had ideals, views and values very different to his own. John was very supportive of the ordination of women and rejoiced when they were allowed to be priested. He was not sympathetic to the high Anglo-Catholic style of liturgy and worship that prevailed in the Cathedral and this led to many lively chapter meetings as I am sure the Acts of Chapter or Chapter minutes will testify to future researchers. Whatever the disagreements were in the Chapter that is where they stayed. When the meetings were over courtesy and civility always prevailed. (Well nearly always!)

John was a stickler for accuracy and for unfussy, well-ordered liturgy. There was no Liturgy and Music Department in those days and it fell to his secretary and the Priest Vicar to draft and devise orders of service, directions and seating plans. John would scrutinise them with a toothcomb until he found a mistake and then he was happy. Jennie Gurney and I soon learned to plant an obvious error on the first page which he would discover with triumph. He was happy - and so were we! I always knew if something had gone wrong. Answering a ring on the doorbell I might hear the words, ‘David it’s John, Hazel and I were wondering if…’ I knew that it would be an invite to supper or some other occasion at the Deanery. On the other hand if I heard. ‘David, it’s the DEAN’ I knew something had gone wrong and in those days everything that went wrong in the cathedral was the fault of the Priest Vicar. I have to say that he always had the grace to apologise if I had been falsely accused.

John was always keen to take part in the late night Fringe Revues which in those days were part of the Southern Cathedrals Festival. His appearance as Maurice Chevalier singing ‘Thank Sarum for little girls’, backed by the ladies chorus dressed as Salisbury girl choristers not only brought the house down but is still remembered today by those who saw it.

One of John’s lasting legacies to the Cathedral must be the links he forged between the two parts of the county of Sussex. People living in the East had felt far distant and far removed from the cathedral. John went out of his way to make them feel very much part of the community and the outcome was the tremendous financial support that they gave to the Development Trust and the Millennium Trust, both of which flourished under his deanship. And of course their practical help in establishing the Festivals of Flowers which over the years have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to support both the fabric and ministry of this place. John himself was no mean sculptor but it was through his initiative that we have the statue of St. Richard on the West concourse and the Christ in Majesty over the entrance to the Lady Chapel. Both were designed and fashioned by Philip Jackson, a close friend.

As Dean of Chichester he became involved in many local charities and organisations. He also became Chairman of the Governors at the Prebendal School. This was a role that he took very seriously and under his chairmanship the school acquired the adjoining premises in West Street and built as a millennium project the HIghleigh Building in the playground which he opened. The original concept of this becoming the pre-prep department has now come to fruition with the whole school on one site. The boys who were Cathedral Choristers in John’s time will well remember with affection the Christmas parties and the pancake parties held at the Deanery and the free for all games of hide and seek that followed them.

Prior to coming to Chichester John had been a Canon of Windsor, where his chief responsibility was for the Royal Chapel in Windsor Great Park Here his ministry extended to Her Majesty the Queen, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and all who lived and worked on the royal estate. John’s son Simon tells me that the eight years spent at Windsor were, of course, very special affording him great privilege and insight into the royal family. It is a tribute to his old fashioned sense of duty, loyalty and discretion that he remained true to himself and unaffected by it all.

John was born in Nottinghamshire to a churchgoing family and after studying theology at Nottingham University and Wells Theological College he was ordained by Bishop Barry in Southwell Minster. His first appointment was as Vicar Choral in the Minster and here he was responsible for ordering the worship and singing the daily offices. A time which engendered and extended his love for the English Choral Tradition, a love that stayed with him all his life. He also ran a successful and large youth club and secured a padre’s commission with the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, the local TA regiment.

His first incumbency was in the parish of St. Leonard’s in Wollaton, near to Nottingham University. As a young clergyman his dynamism and enthusiasm was perfectly suited to a thriving and lively parish. He was soon successfully fund raising for a new extension and setting up an ecumenical magazine with fellow ministers which is still in publication. He is affectionately remembered in the parish today for his ability to get along with everybody, irrespective of background and for his ability to deal sympathetically with groups and individuals just as he found them.

In 1971 John was appointed to the parish church of St. Cuthbert in Darlington building on the experience gained in his earlier ministry. Here his legacy is a reordering of the interior, installation of new windows and the building of a parish centre. Although a traditionalist at heart he was not afraid to innovate. Once he had the cast of ‘Godspell’ singing in the choir stalls and the vicar from ‘Dad’s Army’ speaking from the pulpit, much to the delight of all.

It was in 1981 that he had the great honour of being appointed to serve as a chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen, a ministry that was recognised by the award of an LVO, an honour that it is the personal gift of the Queen herself.

Throughout his married life, John was devoted to his family. Hazel, his wife of well over fifty years was his constant support and encouragement and very often gave him the drive and impetus that he needed to sustain his ministry. He in turn supported her in her role as Central President of the Mothers’ Union and in the many other offices that she held. His children tell me that he instilled in them qualities of kindness, honesty and decency. He celebrated their triumphs and supported them in their times of need. He shared with them his great love of sport and his membership of Arundel cricket club provided many hours of solace in a retirement that was not without it’s anxieties and worries.

John loved his grandchildren and they loved him. Each of them has given a personal reflection on the cover of the today’s service sheet but Max showed tremendous incite when he told me that his grandfather was a ‘religious man’ and of course, John throughout his life was a man of strong faith. He loved the Church and all its aspects and above all the ‘Church of England’. In choosing the readings for today it was important that they reflected his strong belief in the resurrection and the Christian hope and promise of eternal life. A belief strongly underlined and affirmed by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians that we heard in the passage read to us. In John’s gospel the reference to many ‘dwelling places’ or even more apposite in the older translation ‘many mansions’, we thought would please him after his experience of living in the Great Park and the Deanery. But it is the affirmation in that text by Jesus himself that is key to John’s life. “I am the Truth, the Way and the Life”. It is in that Truth that John David Treadgold lived his life, it is that Way that he followed and it is to that Life that he devoted his own; and now his earthly life is over it is our prayer and our wish that he may rest in peace in the nearer of his and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen